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Speeches & TranscriptsMarch 22, 2023

Remarks by World Bank Group President David Malpass at the UN 2023 Water Conference

It is my great pleasure to be here at the UN 2023 Water Conference.

Water is the lifeblood of society. We need water for a thriving economy that can run farms, businesses, and factories. We need water for sustainable development—to produce food and deliver low-carbon growth. And we need clean water for healthy children and adults to realize their potential as productive members of society.

But today, over 2.3 billion people lack safe drinking water. Global economic cost of water insecurity is nearly $500 billion per year. Our research shows that poor water quality can reduce economic growth by as much as a third.

The climate crisis is accelerating the water crisis. But water can also be a part of climate action, for example through nature-based infrastructure, improved irrigation, and climate adaptation. The World Bank Group is the largest provider of climate finance to developing countries, with $31.7 billion in FY22. We have made addressing global challenges such as climate change, conflict and pandemics a priority­—our financing for them has more than tripled over the past decade. It has doubled during my presidency, reaching over $100 billion between 2020 and 2022.

The financing needs in the water sector are enormous—as are the opportunities. As the World Bank, we have a portfolio of over $24 billion in water investments, and projects in over 70 countries. We are also finding new ways to finance water—for example, last month we issued an outcome bond that will provide clean water to schoolchildren in Vietnam, where the investors agree to give up the coupon on the bond in favor of future payments linked to project outcomes.

Let me mention three areas where solutions will help us manage water resources better for development.

The first is policy and institutional reforms for sustainable and equitable water use, valuing water properly, and improving service delivery. Initiatives such as our Utility of the Future Program help transform water supply and sanitation utilities into reliable, efficient and sustainable entities.

The second is partnerships with the private sector. Action at scale will mean crowding in the private sector in bulk water supply, in service delivery, and around resilience and reuse. In addition to its water infrastructure portfolio of more than $300 million, our private sector arm IFC also supports clients with its technical expertise, for example to reduce non-revenue water. MIGA has provided guarantees to support wastewater treatment PPPs to meet the needs of millions of people.

The third is adoption of new technology for water-smart solutions. For example, water meters and transparent tariffs based on water use can be a triple win by reducing citizens’ cost of securing water, generating revenues for service providers, and helping to conserve water.

We need strong cooperation across borders and efficient multistakeholder partnerships to make these work. I hope that the discussions in this conference lead to a renewed commitment to collective action for a sustainable, water-secure world.

Thank you very much.


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